As the Mariners continue to cast a wide net in their ongoing search for a proven starting pitcher, Tampa Bay inevitably emerges as a potential trading partner.
Multiple sources say the two clubs have already been in touch.
The Rays are one of the few clubs with arms to deal. Three in fact. At the Winter Meetings last week outside of Washington, D.C., Tampa Bay displayed a willingness to consider offers for Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly.
Any of the three would fit the Mariners’ preferred profile for a veteran capable of stepping into the middle of their rotation, but the Rays are setting a stiff price for Archer, a former All-Star, and Odorizzi, who has three years of club control.
That positions Smyly, a 27-year-old lefty, as a more-likely target, although several other clubs are also likely to be interested.
Smyly struggled at times last season in going 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA in 30 starts. He also gave up 32 homers in 175 1/3 innings, although his strikeout and walk rates of 8.6 and 2.5 per nine innings remained solid and mirrored career norms.
The Mariners’ list of potential trade targets is also believed to include Cincinnati right-hander Anthony DeSclafani and Boston lefty Drew Pomeranz (if available; the Red Sox sent mixed messages at the Winter Meetings).
Any deal for Kazmir (guaranteed $32 million) or McCarthy ($20 million) would likely require the Dodgers to eat a portion of those salaries.
The Mariners have also been linked to free-agent righty Doug Fister, but general manager Jerry Dipoto said the club, for now, prefers to address its need through a trade.
It’s not a must, but the Mariners seem to prefer a left-hander because that would permit them to shift lefty Ariel Miranda to shift to the bullpen while maintaining a three-righty/two-lefty balance in the rotation.
Smyly can be reasonably viewed as a bounce-back candidate after going 24-15 with a 3.24 ERA over his four previous seasons. He also also comes with two years of club control through arbitration before qualifying for free agency.
The anticipated cost in acquiring Smyly fits easily within the Mariners’ payroll. He made $3.75 million last season and is in line to make $6.9 million next season in projections by www.MLBTradeRumors.com.
Tampa Bay, in return, is believed to be seeking bullpen help and a left fielder, preferably one who is capable of serving as a backup center fielder to Kevin Kiermaier. As always, payroll cost is a factor for the low-revenue Rays.
The Mariners appear to have those pieces and at Tampa Bay-friendly prices. It’s notable, too, the two clubs previously executed two multi-players deals, involving 11 players, in Dipoto’s 15 months as general manager.
One source noted the Rays, at least in the past, showed interest in veteran outfielder Seth Smith, who will make $7 million next season before qualifying for free agency.
Trading Smith would leave the Mariners with three rookies (Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia) and center fielder Leonys Martin in a projected four-man outfield (not counting designated hitter Nelson Cruz).
But Danny Valencia’s versatility could allow the Mariners to pursue a free-agent bat to play some combination of first base/outfield/DH. The glut of such players on the market could create a buy-low opportunity.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners